Yoga. I’m at it again. Well, I’m attempting to be at it again perhaps I should say. I went to some classes a year or so ago and have been doing my own thing.
I took home what I learned and at night while I watched some tv I’d get on the floor and roll out my muscles and then put some of those moves into practice. It felt rather nice to stretch and work my body in a different way than what my usual fare was.
But I haven’t done any organized classes since then… until now… and I’m thinking it will make a good “rest day” activity.
With all my training for the duathlon, I am definitely kicking my own tail and figured a little yoga could keep me loose for doing what I love.
Last week was my first class. Or is it? Is it my first class or a continuation of what I had already learned ?? ha
Anyway, it all came back to me really fast. And I quickly remembered a few things about it…
Yoga is a lot more slow paced
I’m fairly high energy and thrive on it athletically. Coming into a yoga class where all the sudden it’s single moves, being held, and a focus on my breathing …. yeah… a different game from flying down the road on a bike or running for miles.
There’s a reason why yoga is all about a turning inward, an inner mental focus and stillness.
It is a physically and mentally calming activity. I will freely admit it takes some work to rein in my active thoughts and just key in on what I’m doing, how I feeling, my breathing , and nailing whatever pose we are being led in.
Yoga forces me to slow down.
But before we go on… what IS yoga… exactly?
Maybe when you hear the word the mental image comes to you of a seasoned man sitting on top of a mountain lost in meditation for days on end.
I tease, but I’m sure there are images you may get when you hear the word.
Yoga is an ancient practice that has become increasingly popular. it is a meditative practice that leads you to focus on your inner self and to quiet your mind and thoughts.
Supposedly the reason why there are no mirrors in classes is so that you can focus on what you are doing and not be worried about what you or your neighbor look like in a pose.
The goal during yoga is to challenge yourself physically but not feel overwhelmed. At this point your focus is on your breath while your mind is accepting and calm.
I know from what I do on the road, how very important my breathing is to what I do. Deep, even paced breathing serves me well not only on the long stretches, but more importantly when I’m doing things like taking on big hills when I need my breathing strong and even and not shallow and rapid.
BUT get me in yoga pose, and I need to remind myself to breathe! ha
So the act of yoga is to quiet us, to quiet and relax our minds as well as our bodies. It’s almost humorous to me writing that line… because some of those moves are just flat out hard and not necessarily “relaxing” for me although it seems to come later after I’ve been stretched out well. Maybe it’s ’cause I’m still new at it and in time I will reach that perfect state immediately.
Are there other benefits to yoga?
Besides the obvious benefits of relaxation and mental clarity there are many benefits to actively practicing yoga.
On a physical level, yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance.
About that strength thing… I remember my first class finding out how many moves really do require a great deal of strength. It was nice to have some strength to fall back on in those poses. I can see with consistent effort, yoga would build more body strength.
On an energetic level, yoga teaches you how to cope better with stress by cultivating a sense of ease in both active or passive poses.
On a psychological level, yoga helps to cultivate mindfulness by shifting your awareness to the sensations, thoughts, and emotions that accompany a given pose or exercise.
Trust me, you are aware of the sensations holding some of those poses!
Yoga is also good for circulation, improved posture, flexibility, it could help with fighting arthritis, builds muscle strength, protects your spine, and yoga could also help you become a more conscious eater as you become more mindful of yourself. Yoga can also help you become more focused as you have to learn to focus on the present. It can also improve your balance and better balance means less falls. This is especially a problem as we get older. Practicing balance moves could prevent falling.
Also, another by product of yoga is deep sleep, some studies suggest. Of course I’ve found long rides or runs can also contribute to it as well 😉
My yoga goals
If I want to have a flexible, loose body for the things I do on the road, yoga will be good to help keep my body loose and flexible.
Going to a once a week class will solidify moves in my head and then I can continue to use it as a rest/recovery activity in the evenings.
I need time to slow down in a physical way. Yoga reminds me that my high energy needs to be tempered sometimes and that’s ok.
I want to stay bendable! My instructor had us in this pose that was almost a half split and she encouraged us that with a little practice it would come to us. I did the splits ages ago but you know, I grew up and stopped doing stuff like that.
Back bends, head stands, the splits… activities we seem to put away as we get older. She said she never stopped doing them.
It was a reminder to me, and to all of us really, if we want to keep using our body and have it be strong and flexible, we need to always be using it.
Age isn’t an excuse to not use our bodies.
Stretching, bending, pushing ourselves a bit more shouldn’t be limited to a time in our lives, but it should be something we do ALL our lives to be strong and productive so we aren’t limited in the physical bodies we live in.
Use it or lose it. I don’t want to lose it.
It’s why we get weak, we don’t use our bodies to lift, bend, stretch and move. It’s why we stop being able to run because we act like it’s an activity for just the playground. It’s why we allow ourselves to sit on the sidelines as we get older because we haven’t used our bodies in the way they are meant to be used.
And a few of my favorite poses I realllllyy like….
Tell me. Are you a yoga lover? Have you tried it before? Or actively practice it now? What benefits have you seen with it ?